Lure of tourists: World’s oldest steam engine ride


New Delhi – Despite recession and slowdown in tourists inflow to the country, travel by the world’s oldest working steam locomotive on the Delhi-Ajmer route has gained momentum with the heritage train running to full capacity.

Plying only eight times a year during the first and the last quarters, the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ recognised train christened “Fairy Queen” ran with its full capacity of 60 passengers yesterday when it left the Delhi Cantt station. Among the passengers of the 154-year-old train, 30 were foreigners, a senior Railways official told PTI on condition of anonymity citing protocols.

The official said passengers can now book a ticket of the train through Internet on the Railways website.

“Fairy Queen” train was rolled out for the first time by the East Indian Railway in 1855. The locomotive of the heritage train is the oldest working engine in the world.

On January 13, 1998 it was recognised by the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ as the world’s oldest working engine.

A comprehensive two-day tour package with ‘Fairy Queen’ is being offered by Railways and includes on-ground catering, lodging, boarding, transfer facility, a visit to Sariska National Park and cultural programme, the official said.

A journey on “Fairy Queen” costs Rs 8,600 for one person for both ways while the one way fare is Rs 6,000. The train, which relives history, culture and heritage of its destinations in Rajasthan, has only one 60-seater AC passenger coach and a pantry, which serves delicious Rajasthani cuisine to its passengers, the official said.

The destinations of the train include Alwar and the famed Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary.

The train’s first journey this year on January 24 was packed to full. On February 14 and 28 also, the “Fairy Queen” ran with all 60 passengers on board, the official said, adding that for the next and last journey on March 14 for the quarter, 15 out of the 60 seats have been booked.

Nearly half the passengers were foreigners in its earlier runs this year, the official said.

During the erstwhile East Indian Railways, the train shuttled between Howrah and Raniganj stations. In 1895, it was christened “Fairy Queen”. In 1908, its service was stopped.

The heritage train was first exhibited in 1971 at the National Rail Museum, Delhi. In 1996, it was completely overhauled at Perambur workshop of the Southern Railways.

“Fairy Queen” was revived in 1997 and made its first commercial trip in July the same year. In 1999, it was recognised as the the most innovative and unique tourism project and conferred the National Tourism Award by the Prime Minister, the official added.